Writing 101: Dark Clouds on the (Virtual) Horizon

Write a post inspired by a real-world conversation.

Today’s twist: include an element of foreshadowing in the beginning of your post.

This is it.  Jillian thought.  There’s no way earth I will ever see this man again.

It had been almost a month since Jack waltzed – or Samba’d, rather – into Jillian’s life. She hadn’t come here looking for a man to date, but Jack Shepherd was beyond unexpected.  He was amazing.  If she could paint a picture of a man who was perfect for her, it was the man standing outside the glass doors of the room where she was packing.  The only thing that wasn’t perfect was the timing.  She had made up her mind that she didn’t have time for a relationship, and he had agreed.  At least he had in the beginning.

Now that it was their last day together, Jack had become quietly distant.  As the day wore on, his mood had burned with anger with her decision to cut him out of her life. His words from earlier that afternoon came to her mind.  

“How can you throw this away?  You know we are good together.”  Eyes blazing, he stood inches from her, daring her to answer.  “Is it my deployment?  Do you think I won’t be faithful to you?  Because I have enough faith in us.  Hell, I’ll put a ring on it if that’s wh…”

Jillian put her finger up to his lips to stop him mid-sentence.  With her soft, sad gaze on his lovely face, she gently reminded him of what they’d agreed on together.  “Jack it’s not that, and you know it.  How many times do we need to have this conversation? We’ve barely just met, we both have big changes and commitments in front of us.  It’s just not the right time.”

In his eyes and in the set of his jaw, Jillian saw Jack’s demeanor chill.  He took a step back and let her hand fall.  He appeared every inch the soldier as his stood rigidly before her with his hands at his sides.  The atmosphere between them cooled.  After some time, Jack broke the silence with four words that would replay in Jillian’s mind for years to come and make her question the decision she had made.  

“Have a nice life.”

She stared out the window.  She could see him leaning against the far railing of the deck.  His face was toward the ocean.  His dear face had become so familiar to her in these past few weeks that she could almost imagine the stoic expression he wore.  She wanted to reach out to him.  She wanted to call him back.  She didn’t want to part like this knowing they may never see each other again.  

Twelve years later, Jillian found herself on board the Daedalus, a deep space carrier bound for another galaxy.  She hadn’t been able to make the orientation meeting with the entire senior staff, but Rodney assured her there would be plenty of time during travel to Atlantis.  Nothing could have prepared her for her first meeting with the commander of the expedition, Dr Weir and the military commander, Lieutenant Colonel John Shepherd.

**AUTHOR’S NOTE: The prompt for today’s post suggested that I reminisce about an important conversation that will always stick with me.  Once upon a time I ended a relationship.  The guy in the equation told me to “have a nice life.”  The finality of my decision struck me right away, but I didn’t feel like I was able to change my mind.  Many times over the years, that phrase has come to mind.  It has come to represent many of the choices I made, and later questioned, around that time in my life.  I wanted to give Jillian the chance to rethink her choices as well.

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Writing 101: Day Nine – Point of View

A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene.

Today’s twist: write the scene from three different points of view: from the perspective of the man, then the woman, and finally the old woman.

As with many other prompts, I will be adapting this assignment to one of my stories instead of writing about the man, woman and old woman in the park.  The following is present day Jillian & John, set in Atlantis.

JOHN

The day had been a miserable combination of lecture and negotiation.  Rodney started the day as only Rodney can with a forty-five minute dissertation on the importance of the scientific discoveries on Vollan.  It wasn’t enough that his breakfast was ruined by the intrusion, but Rodney had continued to talk all the way to the scheduled meeting being held in the conference room.  The next two hours were taken up with the complete review of the Vollanese culture.  The only bright spot of that meeting was the fact that Jillian led the discussion.  As the lead anthropologist, she had spent time with the leaders from Vollan and had studied their history and culture.  There would be very specific customs to be observed while meeting with these people.  The problem was that John couldn’t concentrate on anything she was saying.  So when the actual negotiations began between the leaders of Atlantis and Vollan John did his best to blend in and be quiet.

Jillian had set directly across the table from him during the discussions.  More often than not, when John looked up he met her gaze directly.  There was a certain amount of tension between them.  It wasn’t an unfriendly tension.  In fact John truly enjoyed any time they were able to spend together.  Maybe it was just the questions in his own mind. All he knew was that it had been a long day and he went to the training area in hopes of finding Teyla or another partner to spar with.

Before he got to the door, he heard the music.  Surely it was not one of the soldiers training or sparring inside.  When the room came into view, John could see Jillian inside.  Her long auburn hair was curled up into a mess of a bun atop her head.  She was clothed in her dance attire, right down to the shoes.  She was lost in the music and didn’t immediately notice him there.  John knew in that moment that he could watch her forever.  All of the summer nights from so many years ago came rushing to him.  The way her body moved against his, the passion they shared on the dance floor and off.

All of a sudden, the music swelled and Annalii turned and leaped, landing a few feet from John and facing his direction.  The glow of her flushed face and the look in her eyes were his undoing.  Dropping the Bantos rods, John crossed the distance between them with swift, long strides.  When he reached her, his hands were on either side of her face and he was kissing her, hard.  The years of missing her had been nothing compared to the months of being near her again.  Her mouth was soft and inviting, allowing his tongue access to glide across her own.

Then it was too much.  He was breathing hard, feeling so much for her.  John had to pull his lips from hers.  Immediately however, he placed one arm around her back and one around her head, crushing her to his chest.  “God, I’ve missed you.”  He could feel her labored breathing, even the beat of her heart.  He wasn’t sure if it was from the dance or their embrace, but he didn’t care.  All that mattered was that she was in his arms at last.  Her response was wordless as she slipped her arms around his waist and held him tight.

They stood like that for awhile, with the music still playing in the background.  Finally, John put his hand under her chin and gently lifted, looking into her eyes.  Her face was almost unreadable.  “Jillian, I want you back.  I need you in my life.  It’s been hell having you work so near me and yet being so far.  I know it was a long time ago, but…”

Jillian reached up and put her index finger over his lips.  “How about we take it one step at a time, fly boy?”

Amused, John lifted a single eyebrow.  “What did you have in mind?”

As the music changed to a sweet jazz melody,  Annalii smiled and took his hand.  “Dance with me.”

JILLIAN

Jillian let out a sigh of relief when she found the room empty.  This room, which was often used for training, was the largest space for her to dance in.  What truly made it her favorite though was the way the sun softly illuminated the room through the colorful windows, especially near sunset as it was now.

She placed her iPod in the dock of the music system and stepped back to begin her warm ups.  Stepping up to the barre that had been added to the room for her use, she slipped into first position to begin the plies, battements and rond de jambes to warm up the muscles in her arms and legs.  After a few minutes, she moved into stretches as the soft piano music lilted from the speakers.  It felt so good to settle into this familiar routine after the day she’d had.  In all reality, the day had been a success.

Over the past two weeks, Jillian had spent time living among the people of Vollan.  She had studied their history as well as their current culture.  She immersed herself into their society and lived as one of them for a short time.  This was important because even Teyla and Ronan were mostly unfamiliar with these very private people.  If the Atlantis expedition had any hope of sharing resources with the Vollanese, it had to be done delicately.  So today, when she was faced with leading a two hour discussion on what she had learned about their culture, she was ready.

She hadn’t been ready, however, to face John’s scrutiny.  Just knowing he was following her every move with those green gold eyes of his was enough to keep her flustered and slightly off her game.  She could no longer deny the effect he had on her.  It was the same one she had felt all those years ago in Cabo.  Seeing him again for these past few months, she had found herself slowly drawn to him again, in a low orbit that drew her slower nearer to him until she couldn’t pull away.  That afternoon, she was caught staring at him on more than one occasion as she thought back to the days and nights they had spent together.

Get a grip Reynolds! Jillian thought to herself.  A lot of time has passed since then.  Life moves on, and I’m sure he has too.  

Finished with her warm ups, Jillian scrolled through the music on her iPod and selected the perfect song.  As the music came on she found herself mixing classic ballet moves with modern jazz and interpretive moves.  As always, she found freedom and confidence in the dance.  When she was performing, the rest of the world fell away and she could lose herself in the music.  It seemed to carry her without thought through the steps, turns and jumps.

During her third song, she found herself crossing the room with a sudden leap into a turn. When she looked up, Jillian’s feet stopped, seemingly glued to the floor.  She was staring straight at the very same man she was dancing to forget.  Before she had a chance to react, he crossed the floor in long, graceful strides and stopped inches in front of her.  Her breathing was labored as she looked into his eyes.  She no longer could tell if it was caused by the dance or his proximity.  Suddenly his hands were framing her face, drawing her lips up to meet his in a frenzied kiss.

Just as quickly, he pulled away, but not completely.  Jillian found herself crushed into John’s chest as his arms held her tightly.  “God, I’ve missed you.”  She could feel his breath as his words came out in a rush near her ear.  Dazed as she was, she could only return his embrace and revel in the moment.  She had dared not hope he could still feel anything for her.  She had been so wrong to let him go then.  She never wanted to let him go now.

When he pulled back again, it was to lift her face and gaze into her eyes.  She was so stunned she couldn’t even think how to feel or react.  Then he spoke.  “Jillian, I want you back.  I need you in my life.  It’s been hell having you work so near me and yet being so far.  I know it was a long time ago, but…”

Jillian reached up and put her index finger over his lips.  “How about we take it one step at a time, fly boy?”

Amused, John lifted a single eyebrow.  “What did you have in mind?”

As the music changed to a sweet jazz melody,  Annalii smiled and took his hand.  “Dance with me.”

RODNEY

Rodney could barely contain his joy.  He could almost be considered giddy.  If Rodney ever got giddy that is.  Today had been a huge success.  Not only had he played a key role in the negotiations with the Vollanese, if I do say so myself, he thought, but he had procured their cooperation with all of the technology he had been looking to acquire.  Yes, he was practically bouncing on his toes.

The only thing that had marred an otherwise remarkable day was Jillian.  She seemed so… average in her role of facilitator today. Jillian didn’t do average, Rodney knew.  He decided he needed to talk to her to see what was going on.  Not wanting to give her a a chance to brush him off, Rodney decided to use the cameras set throughout Atlantis to determine her location.  After a few moments, he found her alone in the training room she sometimes used as a dance studio.

Quickly, he made his way to the closest transport and made his way to where he had found her.  As he rounded the corner, he found Shepherd standing in the doorway, Bantos sticks in hand.  As quickly as he saw them though, they were thrown to the floor as John disappeared inside.  Hesitantly, Rodney followed to the doorway and looked inside.

What he saw made his heart drop.  There were his friends, Jillian and John, locked in a passionate embrace.  He knew he should walk away, but he couldn’t make himself do it.   Of course, he knew they had been an item years ago when the met by chance in Cabo.  Yet she had been here for eight months and neither of them had made a move to be together.  He had grown to believe, as he had always hoped, that there was a chance that this girl he’s known since grade school could possibly love him.  Yet here was the proof before him.  He could not deny the desire he saw.  But would it last?

He stayed in the doorway a bit longer, still unseen.  As Rodney watched, he saw John gently lift Jillian’s face to meet his gaze.  Althought he couldn’t hear what was said, he could read the love on the other man’s face.  Within moments, the music changed to an old American standard that Rodney recognized.  As Jillian placed her hands in John’s hold, Rodney watched what seemed to be the girl of his dreams dancing away from him forever.

Writing 101, Day Eight: Death to Adverbs

Go to a local café, park, or public place and report on what you see. Get detailed: leave no nuance behind.

Today’s twist: write an adverb-free post. If you’d rather not write a new post, revisit and edit a previous one: excise your adverbs and replace them with strong, precise verbs.

Today’s prompt will be used to tell a portion of John & Jillian’s back story.

 

The sun was high and the day was warm when Jillian stepped out of her cabin.  She had spent her first 2 days in Cabo without talking to a soul and had loved every minute of it.  She couldn’t remember the last time she had read a magazine or novel for the mere enjoyment of it.  Now she had completed 3 novels and devoured every gossip magazine she’d found at the airport.  That type of reading wasn’t really her style though, and now Jillian needed another distraction.  If she stayed inside, she would dive into work or into some self-prescribed course of study.  She needed to get out.

Along with her breakfast each morning, she received a newsletter for the resort activities.  This morning as Jillian scanned over the items, she found one that stood out.  In one of the main buildings away from the beach there would be a beginners’ salsa class.  She had dismissed the idea at first, but the paper laid on the counter, calling to her all day.  What could it hurt? she thought.  It would be a nice way to get out, see some fresh faces, and have a little fun.

After strolling across the resort grounds to the main lodge, Jillian stepped into a spacious room that had been cleared and transformed into a makeshift dance studio.  Scattered around the room were around a dozen people.  Most of them stood in couples or groups.  A few were close to her own age, but many of the students looked like they were in their retirement years.  Their chatter was hushed as they rocked from one foot to another in anticipation of what was coming.  Jillian began to worry that it was a couples only class and she was the only single dancer there.  Even when the instructor walked in to introduce himself and begin the class, no other single dancers had arrived.

“Do not worry, Senorita.”  The instructor purred.  “You may pair with me during the partner dances.”  Jillian was barely able to stifle a laugh as she pictured herself partnered with the man.  He was six inches shorter than her and easily 30 years older.

Still amused by the image in her head, Jillian loocked around as the teacher turned to address the class.  Just then a side door opened and a new arrival to class stole in.  He was so quiet, no one but Jillian seemed to notice his entrance.   And notice him she did.  He was tall with a lean, fit body and dark tousled hair.  His hazel eyes darted around the room, trying to avoid detection by the teacher.  Jillian found herself staring and smirking with appreciation.  The man didn’t look like he wanted to be here any more than he looked like he belonged.  Just then the stranger’s eyes caught hers.  After a moment of surprise at the bold look, he sauntered over to where Jillian stood.

“It looks like you’re missing a partner.”  He thrust his hand out between them.  “I’m Jack.”

“Jill,” she said, giving him the shortened version of her name she’d used since childhood.

Shaking her hand, the smirk spread to his face.  “It must be fate.”

Staring into those warm eyes, she barely registered what he said.  After a pause that was only just too long, she said, “What do you mean?”

“I’m Jack.  You’re Jill.  You know, the two kids that went up the hill?”

Laughing, she pulled her hand away from his and did a slight curtsy.  “Nice to meet you Jack.  And yes, it appears I do need a partner.  Thank you.”

Their attention was drawn to the front of the room where the instructor was speaking to the class.  “Alright everyone, I see you all have a partner now, bien!  I am Salviano Ávalos Gil.  You may address me as Maestro Sal, or simply as maestro.  We will begin today with a basic cha-cha-cha to get you moving to the latin beat.  Everyone turn to your partner and get into hold.”  Maestro Sal began to explain the proper form to the class.  Jillian looked around as people began to move their stiff and untrained bodies into position.  Lifting her torso into a raised position and raising her hands to rest on her partner, Jillian was surprised to find his hands in their position on her back and supporting her uplifted right hand.

Without a word, they stood and listened as the maestro covered the basics of hold, correcting more than a few postures in the class.  Finally, he came up beside the two of them and chuffed.  It seemed he was disappointed at the lost opportunity to dance with Jillian.  “Good form,” he mumbled and turned back to the class.  “Now, the basic moves fo the cha-cha-cha are simple.”  Maestro Sal continued his instruction, eventually starting the music as he talked through the steps.  Without waiting for direction, Jack and Jill started to move through the simple steps.  Without breaking eye contact, they wandered through the basics before venturing into more advanced steps.

Jillian found herself confused.  Was she leading this man through the moves or was he actually able to dance?  With a slight tilt of her head and a raise of her eyebrow, she asked the unspoken question.  With a soft laugh he answered, “you seem capable of keeping up.  Good, because you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

With that, she found herself being whirled around and led through the more complicated facets of the dance.  Before long the rest of the class had stopped to stare.  Even Maestro Sal was watching with his mouth slightly agape.  As the music ended, Jack dipped Jillian in his arms until she felt her hair against the floor.  Breathless, she stared up into his hazel eyes.  For just a moment, this whole thing seemed a bit unreal.  Maybe she had fallen asleep in her hammock while reading again and this was all some fairy-tale world dream.

The light applause of the others in the room broke the reverie and Jack stood her back on her feet.  The maestro came close to them both.  “Maybe you don’t belong in a beginners’ class.  You go now.  Show your moves in the clubs, not here to show off.”

Although his tone was gruff, his eyes were twinkling when he turned the two of them toward the doors.  Before Jack walked through it, Jillian saw Maestro Sal slip him a business card.  “This place you can dance.  It is safe part of town and good for tourists.”  With a shrug he backed away and turned again to the class.

Standing again in the warm afternoon sun, Jillian pivoted to face this dark handsome stranger.  She was trying to size him up; to figure out what to make of him.  He came across as a nice enough guy.  He seemed like the kind of guy who could make anyone feel as if they had been friends for years.  She convinced herself that’s all his friendliness was.  She was a bookworm, a nerd, and no one a man like him would be interested in.  Making up her mind, she decided to get out before things got awkward. “It was nice to meet you Jack.  I’m sorry we didn’t get to dance more.  I guess I’ll just be…”

His warm eyes snapped up to meet hers as he flashed a lopsided grin.  He caught hold of her right hand as she heard music begin to play again inside the building.  “Not so fast, dancing queen.”  Jack’s arm dashed around her again to lead her into a dance right there on the sidewalk.  Embarrassed, she could only follow his lead and laugh with self concious trepidation.  “The guy was right, we’ve got moves.  It would be a shame to deny ourselves the pleasure.”

Oh, those words went straight to her belly and coiled there tightly.  She could only imagine what type of pleasure this man could bring.  As they continued the dance Jillian felt freedom from all the burdens she was here to get a break from.  Even as others started to gather around them, she didn’t mind.  She just kept looking at the enjoyment on Jack’s face and couldn’t hide her own.  As the music ended, some people began to clap, others began to slip away and a couple others even tossed money near their feet.

Laughing, Jack took her hand.  “What do you say we get out of here?  I could use a drink.”